HORN IN EXILE
Retold by F. J. H. Barton
Ere Horn had sailed long, the wind rose, and the ship drove blindly
before it for many leagues, till at length it was cast up on land.
Horn stepped out on to the beach, and there before him saw two
princes, whose names (for they greeted him kindly) were Harild and
"Whence are you?" they asked, when they had told him who they were.
"What are you called?"
Horn thought it wise to hide his real name from them, lest it should
come to Aylmer's ears, and his anger reach Horn even in this distant
land. "I am called Cuthbert," he answered, "and I am come far from the
west in this little ship, seeking adventure and honour."
"Well met, sir knight," said Harild. "Come now to our father the king:
you shall do knightly deeds in his service." They led him to King
Thurston their father; and when Thurston saw that Horn was a man of
might, skilled in arms, and a true knight, he took him into his
service readily. So Horn—or Cuthbert, as they knew him—abode at
Thurston's court, and served the king in battle. But no great and
notable thing befell him until the coming of Christmas.
It was King Thurston's custom to make each Christmas a great feast,
lasting many days. To this feast Horn was bidden, with all the other
knights of the court. Great mirth and joy was there that Yule-tide;
all men feasted with light hearts. Suddenly, about noon-day, the great
doors of the king's hall were flung open, and a monstrous giant strode
in. He was fully armed, in pagan raiment, and his mien was proud and
"Sit still, sir king," he roared, as Thurston turned to him. "Hearken
to my tidings. I am come hither with a Saracen host, and my comrades
are close at hand. From them I bring a challenge; and this is the
challenge. One of us alone will fight any three of your knights, in a
certain place. If your three slay our one, then we will depart and
leave you and your land unscathed. But if our one champion slays your
three, then will we take your land for our own, and deal with it and
you as it pleases us. To-morrow at dawn we will make ready for the
combat; and if you take not up this challenge, and send your appointed
knights to battle, then will we burn and lay waste and slay all over
this realm." Thereupon he turned, and stalked out of the hall, saying
never another word. "This is a sorry hap," said King Thurston, when
the Saracen had gone and left them all aghast. "Yet must we take up
this challenge. Cuthbert," he said, turning to Horn, "you have heard
this pagan boast; will you be one of our three champions? Harild and
Berild, my sons, shall be the other two, and may God prosper all
three! But alas! it is of little avail. We are all dead men!"
But Horn felt no fear. He started up from the board when he heard the
king's sorrowful words. "Sir king," he cried, "this is all amiss. It
is not to our honour that three Christian knights should fight this
one pagan. I alone will lay the giant low, with my own sword,
Thurston hoped little of this plan, but none the less he agreed to it;
and when the next day came, he arose betimes, and with his own hands
helped to arm Horn; and having made ready, he rode down to the field
of battle with him. There, in a great open space, stood the Saracen
giant awaiting them, his friends standing by him to abide the issue of
the combat. They made little tarrying, but fell to right soon. Horn
dealt mightily with the giant; he attacked him at once, and showered
blows upon him, so that the pagan was hard pressed, and begged for a
"Let us rest awhile, sir knight," he said. "Never suffered I such
blows from any man's hand yet, except from King Murry, whom I slew in
At that dear name Horn's blood ran hot within him: before him he saw
the man who had slain his father and had driven himself from his
kingdom. He fell to more furiously than ever, and drove hard at the
giant beneath the shield; and as he smote he cast his eye upon the
ring Rimenhild had given him.
Therewith his strength was redoubled; so straight and strong was the
blow, so true his arm, that he pierced the giant to the heart, and he
fell dead upon the ground.
When they saw their champion slain, the Saracens were stricken with
panic. They turned and fled headlong to their ships, Thurston and his
knights pursuing. A great battle was fought by the ships: Harild and
Berild were slain, but Horn did such deeds of prowess that every pagan
There was great lamentation over the two princes. Their bodies were
brought to the king's palace and laid in state, and lastly buried in a
great church built for them.